A couple of week ago, the federal Conservatives poached one of Premier Doug Ford’s provincial cabinet ministers, Parm Gill, for the upcoming federal election. The unexpected departure has prompted concerns within the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party about the potential for more defections. Pictured: Federal Conservative Milton candidate Parm Gill and Premier Doug Ford. Photo Credit: Parm Gill/Facebook.
In politics, a minority parliament provides does a lot of things, none of which is providing stability for the governing party. With any confidence vote, like on a budget or the Fall Economic Statement, the government’s ability to wrangle enough votes from opposition parties is the ultimate test for their ability to lead and avoid an election.
To the credit of the current Liberal government, their supply and confidence agreement with the NDP has created that sense of stability within Parliament. In exchange for key policy points that the NDP have been championing, like better protection for workers’ rights, enhanced tax fairness and improvements to Canada’s healthcare system, the Liberals will have their support on these important votes and be able to keep the keys to the Prime Minister’s Office and continue governing.
Despite the promise to keep the government afloat, all parties are gearing up for an election, whenever that might be. The Conservatives seem the most eager to hit the campaign trail. Coming off a record-breaking year in terms of fundraising and positive polling numbers, those in Tory town are getting their house in order to be able to come out of the gates strongly.
One of the most important elements of being ready for an election is having candidates ready to run. The Conservatives have been slowly announcing their slate of who will carry the party banner across Canada in key ridings. They have their eyes on media personalities, business leaders and politicians from all levels of government.
A couple of weeks ago, the federal Conservatives poached one of Premier Doug Ford’s provincial cabinet ministers, Parm Gill, for the upcoming federal election. The unexpected departure has prompted concerns within the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party about the potential for more defections, especially as federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre eyes target ridings held by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
Premier Ford, attending his party’s policy convention in Niagara Falls earlier this month with the party members, acknowledges the possibility of more departures but insists that individuals are not jumping ship. Despite the departure of Gill, who previously served as a federal MP under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ford emphasized that no one is handcuffed to the party.
The idea of MPPs jumping ship to the federal party is not new. When the Harper government was first elected in 2006, the likes of Jim Flaherty, Tony Clement and John Baird, all former Ontario cabinet ministers, left provincial politics to run federally. During their tenure in Ottawa, they played central roles in the Harper government.
As the Ford government approaches six years in power, there are concerns about the future of the government given this pattern, as some MPPs might be looking for more stability and thereby consider running federally. Historically, in Ontario, the provincial party usually faces defeat in the next election when the federal party of the same stripe is elected. Over the past 80 years, for example, different parties have been in power federally vs in Ontario 85 percent of the time.
While the federal Tories pick up steam and pick off provincial politicians, there is a sense of anxiety among the Ontario Tories about the potential departure of MPPs from Toronto, Peel, Halton, York Region, and northern Ontario to join Poilievre’s federal Conservatives. The concern is fueled by the federal party’s current lead in public opinion polls and MPPs looking for more stability in their job prospects post the 2026 election in Ontario.
The real question is, with the federal Tories picking up steam, can the Ontario government afford it? Time will tell.
Daniel Perry is a consultant with Summa Strategies Canada, one of the country’s leading public affairs firms. During the most recent federal election, he was a regular panelist on CBC’s Power and Politics and CTV Morning Ottawa.